It was reported this week that hundreds of fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have undergone combat training in the rough terrains of the Lanao del Sur province. The reports came after news surfaced that the Aquino government and the 11,000 strong MILF were willing to resume peace talks. The talks are of course, aimed at the dearming of the rebel faction. The whole militarization of the present however, is in case they fail once again as it did in 2008.
The MILF, whose fighters are mostly former Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) guerillas, have been pushing for a separate islamic state since 1981. The belligerent members of the group belong to an indigenous southern Philippine tribe called moro, and aim to create a Muslim homeland in the south separate from the Philippines. The closest the moros have been in accomplishing their goal was when autonomy was granted to the provinces of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, Maguindanao and the islamic city of Marawi. However, that autonomy was won by the MNLF and not the MILF.
A Malaysian-brokered peace accord was put in place in early 2008. However, the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) sparked protests among the majority of the Filipino people as it had provisions saying that a greater portion of Mindanao would be controlled by the moros. Provinces and cities where the majority of the population is not even Muslim. In addition to that, the MOA-AD would have given the moros the right to establish their own police force and manage their own resources. A provision which made Malaysia’s willingness to broker the deal suspicious.
A conspiracy theory may well be inside the realm of possibility, although the truth on this suspicion is for analysts to argue. The Filipino people should focus on where nationalism pertains best; that is, the issue of an internal terrorist faction posing a threat to our country’s sovereignty.
In the early months of the present year, hundreds of MILF fighters gave training to at least one hundred new recrouts. The training regime included jungle survival, combat, medical and leadership trainings. All of these routines fit well in guerilla warfare, the war tactic the MILF specializes. The obvious scenario is that a full-scale war looms, made even more obvious with the organization’s announcement that they seek to acquire more “logistics”. A term which could only mean firearms, ammunitions and other equipments used for jihad.
It would be no surprise if the MILF decide to return to combat; this has been their way for many years. They wage a war against the government and once their forces are weakened they settle for a peace agreement. While the negotiations are being done, they rebuild their army. So when the government pulls out on the deal because their demands exceed whats fair, the MILF have a capable army to fight them once again.
Although the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) numbers are ten times that of the MILF, the enemies are not to be underestimated. These islamic guerrilla fighters have a rich history of fighting: first against the Spanish, then the Americans and soon after the Japanese. And the moros have never been defeated in any of these wars.
Today, the MILF is fighting their own Filipino brothers. Even though they never acknowledged to be Filipinos themselves. Their message is this: ‘meet our demands, or we go to war’. They are saying this loud and clear.
The threat of war is clearly there and although it is against our principles to resort to violence, let us remember that surrendering a portion of our territory will be the biggest abomination to our constitution. The government have to respond to this issue as quick as they can, and more importantly find a solution. Diplomacy clearly does not conform with these bandits, which leaves them with one other option.